Photo of the day – Plaza de Toros

Millions of Americans are suffering through an almost intolerable heat wave. So why not add fuel to the fire this Friday with an image that speaks to a dry and unyielding summer heat?

In addition to suggesting extreme warmth, this image of the Plaza de Toros (properly the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla) in Seville, Spain by Flickr user magnusvk is gorgeous. The image is simple and beautifully composed. Bullfighting fans will already know that the Plaza de Toros is the oldest bullring in all of Spain.

Got an image you’d like to share with a wide audience? Upload said image to the Flickr Gadling Group pool. If we like your photo we might choose it as a future Photo of the Day.

The beginning of the end for bullfighting?

The parliament of Catalonia, the eastern region of Spain, has voted to ban bullfighting.

The move comes after anti-bullfighting activists presented the government with a petition bearing 180,000 signatures calling for bullfights to be abolished. Bullfighting has become increasingly divisive in Spain, where some Spaniards say it’s part of the country’s heritage and others see it as a national embarrassment. I’ve lived part time in Madrid for six years now and most Spaniards I know have never been to a bullfight, although I also know an active minority who go every season.

A ban in Catalonia is significant because not only is it the first in Spain, but the region’s main city of Barcelona has one of the leading bullfight rings in the world. A ban there is a serious blow to bullfighting worldwide. It is expected to cost thousands of jobs and millions of euros in income for the city, including a sizeable amount from tourism.

The ban takes effect in January 2012. The vote was 68 in favor, 55 against, with nine abstentions.

Do you think bullfights are right or wrong, and why? Tell us what you think in the comments section.

Image of the painting “Dead Bullfighter” by Édouard Manet courtesy The Yorck Project. Painted c. 1864.

The Original Running of the Bulls

Each week, Gadling is taking a look at our favorite festivals around the world. From music festivals to cultural showcases to the just plain bizarre, we hope to inspire you to do some festival exploring of your own. Come back each Wednesday for our picks or find them all HERE.

Most people outside of Spain got their first glimpse of los encierros (The Running of the Bulls) thanks to the 1926 Ernest Hemingway novel, The Sun Also Rises. Inspired by Pamplona’s San Fermín festival, his novel in turn has inspired millions to visit, and even participate in, this most unusual and iconic celebration. What few people realize, even in Spain, is that Pamplona is not the only place where los encierros are performed. To experience the most historic of these fiestas with an authentic flair, head inland to Cuéllar.

The small Segovian village of Cuéllar, north of Madrid, has been hosting its own running of the bulls, Los Encierros de Cuéllar, the last week in August every year since 1499 (and possesses historical documentation referencing dates as early as 1215), a celebration which few outsiders have witnessed.

Despite the town’s modest fame, tourism from the surrounding villages can double the town’s small population over the week of the festival, giving a welcome boost to the agricultural economy.

A foreign visitor to Cuéllar, Spain, which is relatively hidden away and known only to those with a family or geographical connection, will find that the town is as interested in them as they are in it and its celebrations, and they will feel welcomed and encouraged to take part.

Want to learn more about this lesser-known Spanish festival? Keep reading below…To kick off the festival, the peñas (groups of friends) convert garages and storage spaces into makeshift dens where they can eat, drink, and gather for the week. The peñas then parade in the town square for the pregón, or opening ceremony, where the guest of honor (usually a minor Spanish celebrity) addresses the crowd and the queen of the fiesta is presented. What ensues is a heady mix of drinking, street parties, tapas (fried pig’s ear is one local specialty, exquisitely prepared by the Las Bolas cafe, Calle de San Pedro, 20), live music, and, of course, the running of the bulls.

It is the locals that make this rural Spanish festival really special and most are more than happy to indulge visitors with stories of the fiesta and the village’s history. One former fiesta queen, Cecilia, now in her late nineties, loves to share stories about strange, inexplicable happenings at the fiesta. In one of her favorites, a local man was cornered and attacked by a bull years ago and left miraculously unharmed, but stark naked.

While Cuéllar may seem like another world, travel there is simple. Daily buses from Madrid’s central station carry passengers from the capitol in 90 minutes, adding accessibility to the charm and wonder of the place known to its residents as “la isla en un mar de pinos,” or “the island in a sea of pine trees.” Want to check out this year’s festivities? Make your way to Spain at the end of August to check out this great Spanish celebration.

Fiestas de la Virgen de la Paloma in Madrid

If you’re in Spain this week, you won’t want to miss the festival for the “Virgin of the Dove”. This takes place every year in the old barrio of La Latina in Madrid and honors an 18th century portrait of the Virgin that was found in the trash one day and captured the barrio’s heart.

I went to one of these a couple of years ago and it’s loads of fun. There’s music, dancing, and lots of limonada, which is sort of like a cross between lemonade and sangria. Tasty, but potent on a hot evening.

The main festival is August 15, when there’s a long procession and a mass in honor of the Virgin. More secular entertainments include dancers, clowns, and fireworks. Since madrileños can’t conceive of a party lasting only a single day, the festival actually lasts August 12-16.

There’s something for everyone at this festival–chess tournaments, storytellers, dancing, kids’ games, and way more into the wee hours. Last year they even had a running of the bulls suitable for the whole family. The bulls were guys in bull costumes, and kids dressed as matadors waved little capes in front of them. It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Local blogger/writer/poet Sue Burke, who took this shot, nearly lost her drink when she got gored. The running of the fake bulls will happen again this Thursday, so hold onto your limonada.

A full schedule of events is here (in Spanish). Check out this website’s main page for more festivals in one of Spain’s most enjoyable cities.

Two more injured at running of the bulls

I have a personal motto: “Experience is the best teacher. Other people’s experience is the second best.”

I think the folks in Pamplona need to learn this.

Just two days after a man was gored to death at the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, two more people were injured in the same manner. The two men, both Spanish, were seriously hurt at another running of the bulls, which takes place daily at the annual Festival of San Fermín. The run was well attended despite the earlier death. One man was gored in the neck and trampled. The other was impaled in the chest and tossed into the air several times.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported the two men were both Spanish, aged 44 and 53. The paper has a website with video and photos of the festival.